Arshad Sharif’s widow expresses distrust in JIT probing journalist’s murder

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ISLAMABAD: The widow of slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif, Javeria Siddique, on Thursday expressed a lack of trust in the special joint investigation team (JIT) formed on the direction of the Supreme Court to probe the high-profile murder case.

“The JIT members are the officials working under the accused [authorities]. Retired army officials such as AD Khawaja and General (retd) Tariq Khan should be included in the JIT,” Siddique requested the apex court.

However, the Supreme Court set aside the reservations expressed by the family, saying that only serving officials will be a part of the JIT.

A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, issued the directive during the hearing of a suo motu notice in the high profile murder case.

“Subordinate officials can also do wonders,” CJP Bandial said, asking her to have trust in the investigation panel.

He said that the court has the progress report on the probe but it cannot be discussed publicly.

“Serious facts have been revealed in the investigations held in Pakistan,” CJP Bandial remarked.

Meanwhile, the apex court took note of the delay on part of the government in writing a letter to the Kenyan government for mutual assistance in Arshad Sharif’s murder probe.

The apex court also directed the JIT to approach the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the inclusion of the United Nations in the probe.

“Arshad Sharif’s death isn’t just a matter of human rights but a gruesome murder,” CJP Bandial said.

At the outset of the hearing, CJP Bandial inquired about the progress in the investigations of Sharif’s murder.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Amir Rehman informed the court that the progress report was submitted to the court.

The special JIT has recorded statements from 14 people and the investigation comprises three major phases, i.e, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kenya, he added.

“The JIT has to go to Kenya for investigations now as it couldn’t do it before January 15 due to the Christmas holidays,” Rehman said.

He added that the JIT would first go to the UAE and then Kenya on January 15.

“Since there are three phases of the probe —Pakistan, Dubai, and Kenya— have the investigations of phase I been completed?” Justice Aijazul Ahsan asked the government official.

The AAG maintained that most of the investigation in phase I has been completed.

Meanwhile, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked the AAG whether they had set a time frame for the completion of investigations.

“Setting a timeframe for it will be difficult,” the AAG replied to the judge.

Justice Ahsan also inquired about the likelihood of the UN’s inclusion in the investigations.

Rehman said that this option would be considered if needed.

Meanwhile, the court reprimanded the authorities for the delay in sending a letter to the Kenyan authorities yesterday (Wednesday).

“What could the JIT have done when the letter seeking mutual cooperation [from Kenyan authorities] hadn’t been sent early,” Justice Mazhar remarked.

“MOFA could have sent the letter earlier,” he added.

CJP Bandial remarked: “The government has delayed sending the letter requesing cooperation from Kenyan authorities.” 

The CJP directed the authorities to find out why Sharif left Pakistan in the first place and asked if there was any update on Sharif’s electronic devices — phones, laptops, flash drives that were still missing.

“Has the JIT found out about the whereabouts of these devices. Find out who — Kenyan police, intelligence agencies or the two brothers — has those devices,” the CJP asked.

“Arshad Sharif’s murder is a test case for the JIT,” he said.

Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi remarked that the apex court was not trying to interfere with the investigation.

“Instead, the court has given the JIT freedom to investigate. The court is serious for such investigations and wants the Arshad Sharif murder probe to be transparent,” the judge said.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing till the first week of February.